Shiners delves into the lives of shoe shiners around the world giving you an insider’s view of this often ignored profession. From the brash street shiners of New York City to the masked shoeshine boys of La Paz, Shiners travels the world to show you what it means to be a shoe shiner.

Shiners is a character-driven documentary that will introduce you to the people who do this job and allow you to see the world through their eyes. You’ll discover that despite being literally and figuratively ‘looked down upon’ by society, shoe shiners universally take great pride in the work they do.

Shiners like the freedom that comes with being their own bosses and they enjoy interacting with customers who always walk away happy. Yet, despite high levels of job satisfaction, shoe shiners are mostly ignored and, in some countries, even maligned. This film challenges viewers to question why that is.

In Bolivia, where shining is looked down on by even the poorest people in society, children as young as 8 years old shine shoes in the street. They wear masks out of shame, so their classmates and neighbours won’t know what they do for a living.

Because of the stigma attached to the job, shoe shining is dying out in many countries. Shiners will travel to Sarajevo where we will meet Ramiz, the last shoe shiner in the city. Ramiz inherited his job from his father who died in 2014. His father, “Uncle Mischo” was beloved by the citizens of the city. We discover that, during the war, the simple act of getting one’s shoes shined was an act of resistance. Uncle Misho gave the people of Sarajevo hope during their darkest time. Now his son continues the tradition of shoe shining and tries to win the love of the people who he now serves.

MORE: From Toronto to Tokyo, Meet The People Who Have Found Their True Calling Shining Shoes

With a renewed interest in all things ‘retro’, shining is starting to become hip again. In cities like New York, Toronto, and Tokyo, the job is attracting younger people who are working to elevate the profession and give it a newfound respect. Some are turning the trade into an art, hand painting high-end shoes to create custom patinas and designs. While others, like Kevin in NYC and Vincent in Toronto, are using shoe shining as a type of therapy to help themselves cope with physical and mental disabilities.

People around the world have turned to shoe shining to provide for themselves and their families. These are their stories. Step into their world. 


Produced with additional funding from:

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